Carol Friedman always meets with her subjects before she photographs them. If she doesn't, "then they're just going to the dentist and they're filled with fear." But does the veteran portrait photographer, whose soul-baring shots of music legends have graced hundreds of CDs and album covers, ever dread an encounter with a star herself? Not at all: "When people warn me about someone... that somebody is difficult, I’m in heaven. I just say bring them on... I know I’m going to make them happy."It's that kind of confidence and professional rapport that have helped Friedman produce iconic images of everyone from Francis Ford Coppola to Robert Rauschenberg to Sarah Vaughan. The story behind the Sarah Vaughan session is one of her particular favorites. Terrified of unflattering pictures, the great singer almost backed out of the project, but finally relaxed enough not only to do a shoot but to cook chili in Friedman's kitchen.

In an equally relaxed, and revealing, Big Think interview, Friedman also shares the story of her recent makeover of the Rev. Al Sharpton and explains why she obsesses far more over music than lighting before a photo shoot. Poking fun at our questions, she even offers some "advice by Carol Friedman for young'uns starting out" in photography: stop fiddling with your lenses and get yourself a mentor.

Image: the late Lena Horne, courtesy of Carol Friedman.